Designing information systems with the user in mind, generally referred to as ‘user-centered design’ has become an established goal of much of the work in information science. According to this approach, activities such as user studies, usability evaluations, and user analyses (amongst others) must be performed if we are to either advance our field or design better systems. However, despite the rhetoric, user-centered design methods are not uniform in nature, and the variability in application of the user-centered approach is leading some researchers to question its value. Negroponte (1996) argues that good design will attract its own users, while Heninbokel et al (1996) found that adopting user-centered approaches actually led to more problems in many designs.
In the present panel we will explore the extent to which there is real substance behind the rhetoric of user-centeredness in our research and practice, explore ways in which we can improve the quality and applicability of data and inputs from users, and engage in debate and discussion with the audience on the real values of user-centered design for the field.